2012-2013 Undeclared Allergens and Gluten in Domestic and Imported Products

Executive Summary

The Food Safety Action Plan (FSAP) aims to modernize and enhance Canada's food safety system. As part of the FSAP enhanced surveillance initiative, targeted surveys are used to evaluate various foods for specific hazards.

A wide variety of domestic and imported prepackaged products such as desserts, snacks, ready to eat meals, spices and flavour packets are available on the Canadian marketplace. Undeclared allergens and/or gluten sources may be present in prepackaged products due to incomplete labelling or cross contamination of an ingredient, or the final product, with an allergen and/or gluten source. This survey gathered information on the levels and prevalence of undeclared allergens and/or gluten in domestic and imported prepackaged products.

The main objectives of the Undeclared Allergens and Gluten in Domestic and Imported Products survey were:

  • To obtain baseline information regarding the presence and levels of undeclared priority allergens and gluten in domestic and imported prepackaged products.
  • To identify potential food safety concerns relating to undeclared allergens and gluten in domestic and imported prepackaged products.

For this survey 594 domestic and 586 imported prepackaged products were sampled and analysed for undeclared soy, egg, milk (beta-lactoglobulin and casein), peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, sesame and gluten. The majority of the samples were analyzed for more than one undeclared allergen and/or gluten. There were 3705 analyses conducted on the domestic samples, of which 23 products tested positive for one or more undeclared allergens. For samples of imported products, 3739 analyses were conducted, with 50 products being found positive for one or more undeclared allergens. Overall, 3.9% of domestic samples and 8.5% imported samples collected were positive for undeclared allergens or gluten.

All positive results were followed up by CFIA. Follow up action may involve a food safety investigation, including a health risk assessment conducted by Health Canada's Food Directorate and a recall or one of the following: notification of manufacturer/importer and/or additional sampling.

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